When Local Rock Icons Got Govt-Ordered Haircuts On Live TV

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source: Malaysia Menjerit

The Shearing Of ’92

Cast your mind back to the heyday of rock in the ’80s and ’90s, when long hair wasn’t just a hairstyle but a symbol of rebellion and identity for bands like Search, Wings, Lefthanded, and Bumi Putra Rockers.

For these musicians, their flowing locks were more than just a fashion statement; they were an integral part of their persona. So, when whispers of a forced haircut started circulating, it felt like a betrayal of their very essence.

The debate over long hair reached its climax during the peak of rock music. It was late 1992, and tracks like ‘Berhantunya’ and ‘Isabella’ by Search dominated the charts, even winning prestigious awards and captivating audiences in Indonesia.

‘Isabella’ even got turned into a movie in 1990, starring Amy Search and Indonesian actress Nia Zulkharnain – but the film received negative responses from the public due to an ‘explicit’ kissing scene.

However, fame came with a price. These rock icons found themselves entangled in controversies, their ‘wild’ lifestyles painting them as societal outcasts. The infamous ‘riot’ incident during the Battle Of The Bands concert in Penang only added fuel to the fire, cementing the negative perception of rockers.

The concert showcased renowned bands such as Rahim Maarof & Whitesteel and SYJ, injecting vitality into the audience with their music. However, despite meticulous preparations, disruptions arose, including the presence of unauthorised individuals.

source: Facebook/ ROCK Dulu-Dulu

Subsequently, the atmosphere grew tumultuous, with fans flouting security protocols and incidents of violence unfolding. Consequently, then-Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, implemented a ban on open-air rock concerts, profoundly affecting the local rock music scene.

As the government crackdown intensified, long hair subconsciously became synonymous with rebellion and immorality.

The ban on long-haired rock artists in 1990 was the final blow, leaving bands like Search and Wings facing a stark choice – conform or face the consequences.

source: Facebook/ ROCK Dulu-Dulu

Rock, Scissors, Broadcast

Awie, the frontman of Wings, vividly recalls the pivotal moment on 1 November 1992, when he and Amy Search underwent a ceremonial shearing by the Minister of Information. The live broadcast of this event on RTM was etched into the nation’s collective memory.

Despite initial resistance, both bands reluctantly surrendered to the haircut as a symbolic gesture, disproving the notion that they were societal misfits. But the emotional toll was palpable, as captured in tearful embraces and heartfelt farewells to their beloved locks.

For Amy Search, the haircut wasn’t just a superficial issue; it was a matter of livelihood. He reflects on the sacrifices made to preserve their careers, acknowledging the trivialisation of the hair debate amidst their rising popularity.

“When the ‘rock issue’ escalated, long-haired rockers had no chance. Only short-haired singers were given opportunities. We had no choice but to accept the situation as our performances dwindled. We still needed to fill our stomachs, so in the end, we let the ministers cut our hair,” he clarified.

source: Kosmo Digital

Rock Hard Place

The aftermath was profound. Concert permits were revoked, TV appearances cancelled, and radio airplay withheld. Major sponsors withdrew their support, plunging the rock scene into decline.

Both bands adapted to the new regulations, maintaining their musical integrity within the confines of government restrictions, albeit within the government’s rules that men’s hair shouldn’t go past shoulder-length.

But the fallout was inevitable.

Their popularity waned, overshadowed by emerging genres and solo ventures. Some say other genres like ballads started to gain steam, and hip-hop was making waves in the Western music scene.

In response, members of Search and Wings went solo. Amy dropped his first solo album, Magic, in ’94, rocking a bald image, while Awie released his first self-titled solo album the same year.

“We proved that the hair issue wasn’t about morality as some suggested. At that time, Search was gaining popularity. ‘Isabella’ wasn’t just a hit in Malaysia but made waves in Indonesia too. Everyone knew that, but the hair issue was taken so seriously,” Amy reminisces.

As reported by Utusan Malaysia, despite the incident happening decades ago, Awie still emphasises that the hair issue shouldn’t be the primary focus. He maintains that those with long hair shouldn’t be automatically labeled as bad – a principle he holds onto to this day.

Today, those who came of age in the ’80s and ’90s fondly reminisce about the era of flowing locks. While some have embraced baldness as they journey through middle age, the magnetic pull of those lush, ‘rockstar’ tresses still holds sway.